Thursday, December 6, 2018

But I Deserve It!

How do you respond when you don't get what you have earned? Do you get angry? Do you hide and sulk? Do you get revenge? Our own sense of what we deserve is strong and often drives us to unexpected places when violated.

We don't know much about Joseph. Based on what we do know, we can draw some conclusions and paint a picture of the man we think he might have been.

Joseph was an unassuming carpenter in a sleepy town. He likely had no aspirations of ever leaving. Joseph eschewed the spotlight, he probably preferred a simple night at home sitting around the fire with friends and family. He was looking forward to marriage and a quiet life with his bride.

He worked hard. He had earned a quiet life. He deserved it.


Instead, his fiancé got pregnant. She claimed it was a miracle. He wasn't so sure until an angel visited Him. Her child was going to be the Messiah. He was going to save the world from their sins (Matthew 1:18-23). This was Joseph's new normal.

His wife would never really be his. She would always be somewhat devoted to her firstborn. His oldest son would be the subject of gossips and whispers. His own children (he likely wondered if he would ever have any) would always have a stigma attached to them because of their brother. In Joseph's mind, this was not what he had earned. It was not what he deserved.

What would you do?

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." (Matthew 1:24)

Joseph obeyed. 
Joseph obeyed immediately.

You may not have been visited by an angel last night, but you likely have an area of your life which requires a higher level of obedience to God. Perhaps you have delayed because of the possible consequences. Perhaps you believe your time and energy is better spent on your own agenda.

Obedience worked out okay for Joseph. It will work out okay for you also. Give it a try!

Monday, December 3, 2018

13 Leftovers From A Sermon on Gratitude

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
(LUKE 1:46-49)

13 NUGGETS ABOUT GRATITUDE

1. Gratitude is the result of who you are, not what happens to you.

2. Gratitude is an internal commitment to not be controlled by external circumstances.

3. What happens TO me can never change what has been done FOR me.

4. Gratitude focuses on God's provision instead of my problems.

5. We all have problems, and it is good to tell God about our problems; but they should never be our primary focus.

6. God's provisions far outnumber your problems.

7. Gratitude grows from past deliverance not present darkness.

8. Mercy is only needed by those who have made mistakes.

9. Mercy is something we don't always see, even though it is there.
We don't always like to give it, even though we should.
We rarely think we need it, even though we all do.

10. God is rich in mercy: He has more to give than you have mistakes to make.

11. Grow your gratitude by praying for a positive perspective.

12. Become more grateful by setting aside time to practice gratitude.

13. Multiply your gratitude by sharing it with others.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Pray Without Ceasing.

Last February, Marianne and I cashed in some frequent flier miles and spent three days in Florida celebrating our anniversary. One evening, I pulled out my phone and opened the "find my friends" app. It was odd to see that we were so far from our children and they were so far from each other. Emma was in Indiana and Liam was in Oregon. All of us were thousands of miles from each other.

Yet with a simple touch of the screen, I sent a group text and instantly the four of us were connected. It was as if we were sitting in the same room.

Technology has created a level of connectivity our world has never before experienced. Along with texting and facetime, we can use a multitude of social media platforms to stay in touch with one another. I can go through my day, carrying on a constant conversation with friends in all parts of the world. We've come a long way in the past 50 years.

We have always had this level of connectivity with God.
Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." 
1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray continually" 
Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote yourselves to prayer" 
Philippians 4:6 says, 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
What does it mean to pray continuously, in every situation, on all occasions? If we are praying 24/7, how can we possibly get anything else done?

I believe Paul's desire was for Christians to be a constant state of connectivity to their Heavenly Father.  My goal is to be in a constant state of prayer throughout the day. It's almost like an ongoing text conversation between God and me.

As I move from hour to hour, I am asking questions like:

  • What do you want me to accomplish in this meeting?
  • What does this person need to receive from me today?
  • How are you using this conversation to shape me?
  • Why have you provided this blessing to me?

Constant prayer means constant connectivity. Prayer doesn't have to be a formal, verbalized ceremony which demands everything in life to grind to a halt. It can a quick sentence you send up to your Father over and over as you take each step on your day's journey.

Imagine how your day would change if you prayed as much as you texted or emailed or posted on social media. Maybe that would be a great goal for the weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

4 Bible Verses To Empower Election Reflection

Did your candidate win last night?

Some of mine did.
Some of mine didn't.

The truth is that none of the candidates were really "mine". First and foremost, the election belongs to God and He is not surprised by any of the outcomes. Secondly, my primary allegiance is to a higher Kingdom and a greater King than any who could be elected.  Here are some verses to contemplate today as we bask in the afterglow of another election.

Ephesians 6:12
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Those with whom you disagree are not your enemy. Even if they mistreat you, Jesus' expectation is that you continue to love them, pray for them and bless them.


1 Peter 2:11-12
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This world is not our home. We are like exiles waiting to return to our own kingdom. Until then, though, we must live honorable and praiseworthy lives so that we reflect well on our Heavenly Father.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God

God is not surprised by the outcome of any election. For this reason, we must honor and obey those who are in authority. Whether or not you agree, as a follower of Jesus you are to show respect to those in authority.

Colossians 4:6
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Seek out opportunities today to speak graciously with others. Whether it be on social media or in person, use your words as a gift which builds up everyone with whom you come into contact.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

You Don't Need a CCP For This Weapon

The sun was beating down, the wilderness air was dry. Jesus was thirsty and hungry. For 40 days, as long as the sun was up, he didn't eat. He was fasting and focusing on the mission God had sent Him to accomplish. He was tired, weak and lonely.

Satan chose this moment to attack. (he usually attacks when we are at our weakest)

  • He tempted Jesus rely on Himself instead of God.
  • He tempted Jesus to take a shortcut instead of following God's path.
  • He tempted Jesus to doubt God's protection.

These are the same temptations Satan throws at us. In Ephesians 6, Paul wrote that we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood but against the powers of darkness. He also wrote that we are to put on the armor of God so we can stand firm against Satan's strategies.

One piece of our armor is the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. This was Jesus' weapon of choice against the devil. Each time Satan unleashed a new temptation against Him, Jesus responded by quoting Scripture.

  • "People do not live by bread alone"
  • "You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him"
  • "You must not tempt the LORD your God"

The only reason Jesus was able to resist Satan was because He had prepared ahead of time. His time spent memorizing the Word of God made it possible for Him to fight temptation with truth.

If you want to fight temptation with truth, you need to be storing up Scripture in your mind. Start by memorizing a new verse every week. Then make it two. Eventually learn a new verse every day.

Here are two to get you started:

EPHESIANS 6:11
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

EPHESIANS 6:12
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Honor is not earned. It is given.

When you think about the idea of "honor", you probably think about people who deserve to be honored because of what they've done. We honor our sports heroes who win championships. We honor the high-achievers who win spelling-bees and robotics competitions. We honor musicians who entertain us with hit songs.

We rightly honor our veterans who were willing to give their all to ensure our well-being. It is good and appropriate for us to often honor the sacrifices made by those who served our country.


Most of the time, we honor those who have earned it through their actions. However... God also expects us to honor people, not because of what they've done, but because of who they are! Paul writes in Ephesians 6:2:

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise).

To honor is to:
- prize
- respect
- value
- view as worthy

Paul expects people to honor their parents, not because their parents have earned it, but because they have been appointed by God to that position of authority, responsibility and accountability.

We all have people in our life that may not have earned our honor/respect/value, yet God expects that we honor them because He has placed them in a position of authority over us. They might be a teacher, a boss, a manager, a police officer, an elected official, a coach or something else. If they are in a position of authority, God has allowed them to be there and He expects us to honor them.

As long as they are not leading you into sin, are you willing to demonstrate honor to them as you would to Jesus? This is a tougher challenge, isn't it? But it is a key element of living the Jesus-life. I hope you'll give it a try.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Everybody Hurts. Yet Joy Can Be Found In Suffering.

It is a joy to serve God.

If it isn’t, you’re probably just serving yourself by pretending to serve God.

Being a servant of God means several things which on their own should bring enough joy to sufficiently quell any unhappiness.

  • Being God’s servant means I am dwelling in the household of God. Although it isn’t Eden exactly, it is the closest we on the post-fall earth can come. 
  • By serving God, I am willingly participating as a member of his family and community. 
  • Being a servant of God means I have meaningful and eternal work to accomplish. God does not call us to mundane, repetitive work; but rather to the greatest, most important task imaginable; we are called to participate in his redemptive work. 
  • Being a servant means I have security. I do not need to worry about my safety or my future. My master will take care of me. If I trust that God is more powerful than any force, I can be certain He will not be overpowered or surprised by anything that comes into my life. Thus, I can trust his provision and protection, knowing whatever I face I do so by my master’s choice and with my master’s permission.


Therefore, suffering (or the entrance of undesired circumstances into my life) is nothing unexpected to my master, and therefore is is something about which I can be joyful. These aren't my ideas, but rather those of James, the brother of Jesus. He said:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds."
Truthfully, the key to understanding James 1:2 is found in James 1:1 and it is the word "servant". If I truly understand servant and sovereignty, I can count anything joy (including trials of various kinds) if I understand that I am a servant of God.

REM (musical group from the 1980s) said, “Everybody hurts.” The truth in this broken world is that everyone faces trials of some kind. For some the trials are extraordinarily difficult, life changing, horrific circumstances. For others, the trials are relatively much smaller.


James doesn’t differentiate between small trials and large trials, and thereby let those who suffer greatly off the hook. Rather, he says whatever the variety of trial may be, these truths still apply. No matter what your trial is, you can approach it with joy. After all, most of us, no matter how big our trials are will never face the scope of trials dealt with by Job or Jesus.

Even though we may not always bring our trials upon ourselves, often we are somewhat responsible for some of the circumstances leading up to our suffering. Even when we are not, we can always point to poor decisions we have made which mercifully did not lead to severe suffering. Jesus, however, never acted once in a way which deserved suffering. Yet, no one in history suffered more than he did when he died. Yet, he counted it joy because he counted himself as a suffering servant!